DENVER — Fentanyl kills more Coloradans than any other drug. Deaths among children are rising. A doctor at Children's Hospital Colorado began noticing an uptick in cases in 2020.
"It doesn't take much to have a fatal event," said Dr. Sam Wang, a medical toxicology physician at Children's Hospital.
Wang knows firsthand how dangerous a small amount of fentanyl can be. He's seen toddlers get ahold of their parents' pills or high schoolers experimenting with drugs.
"Certainly the past few years we have seen more of our population, unfortunately, getting fentanyl," he said.
Very few kids died from fentanyl just a few years ago. In 2019, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said four people under 18 years old died of a fentanyl overdose. In 2021, it jumped to 24. So far in 2022, CDPHE said at least 20 kids have died. That number could be higher because of a lag in death certificate data.
"I think fentanyl has been a game changer for the past couple of years and CDC reported over 100,000 overdose deaths and fentanyl represents the majority of those overdose deaths," said Wang.
Children's Hospital hands out Narcan to patients and families in case an overdose happens again. Doctors also try to connect young people to clinics to get help. Wang said resources in Colorado and nationwide for this population are limited.
"Fentanyl is a big problem and we need to figure out a way to decrease its availability and use within all populations," he said.
Fentanyl is so common in the drug market that several parents in Colorado are now facing charges after the death of a child.
In September, a grand jury indicted parents in Brighton for murder after their 1-year-old daughter died from fentanyl poisoning.
Up in Weld County last week, the district attorney charged a mother in Greeley. Police said her 12-year-old daughter took one of her fentanyl pills and died.
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